School board exploring budget cuts

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 9/20/00.

An analysis of the general fund and school enrollment showed the downward spiral the budget has taken in the last five years to the Paynesville Area School Board at their meeting Tuesday night. Superintendent Howard Caldwell stressed the need to start considering budget cuts for the 2001-2002 school year.

"Our enrollment is down significantly and it all relates to the fund balance," he added.

"We need to address our budget problems now. We don't have a choice," he stressed. Caldwell told the board it will be difficult to project how much of a budget cut the district will need to make.

"We had a healthy balance for the 1996-97 school year," Caldwell informed the board. The district had a balance of $1.6 million. The district then spent more than $400,000 on technology because the state threatened to withhold funds to districts with healthy fund balances.

Starting with the 1997-98 school year, the budget has had more expenditures than revenue. At the end of the 1997-98 school year, the budget showed deficit spending of $538,333, because of the technology purchases. By the end of the 1998-99 school year the district's deficit was $239,641.

At the end of the 1999-2000 school year, the deficit spending totaled $278,726 leaving the district with approximately $596,483 as a reserve balance to start this school year.

Board chairman Pat Flanders feels there will be enough reserve funds to finance another year. Caldwell feels the reserve will be gone or close to it by next June.

Caldwell felt the board would have a better idea after they received the 1999-2000 audit at the end of October or the first part of November.

Board chairman Pat Flanders said the board started the same process 11 years ago, targeting numbers for deductions.

Caldwell informed the board it is a lengthy process to sort out areas to receive cuts. He is estimating the board needs to cut a minimum of $250,000 to $300,000.

The process involves going through each department, asking staff members where possible reductions can be made, talking with department supervisors, and accumulating ideas. The next step would be to put dollar amounts on each item and evaluate and prioritize the list.

According to Caldwell, this will probably be the most difficult decision the board members will need to make during their tenure on the board. Two of the seven board members have gone through the process before. Board members Maurice Dosdall and Flanders were on the board when the last set of cuts were made in the spring of 1990. Those cuts totaled about $150,000.

"This idea is nothing new as I have been reminding the board about three years now that we need to do something," Caldwell said.

The board members left the meeting pondering the work they would need to be doing at future meetings dealing with budget cuts.

Other business
•The board approved the sale of the temporary classroom at the elementary school to the Paynesville Area Center for $1.

•The board approved a long-term substitute position for Inez Jones. She will be replacing Michele Voecks, a middle school instructional aide who is on a maternity leave.

•Deb Gillman reminded the board the middle school's website will be updated weekly. (

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